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Is scrum a “magic pill” for management? Part 1.

09/29/20217 minute read

Is there a single recipe for implementing a framework that works for all companies? What does scrum give to the client and why is it necessary to focus on the scrum team? These and other tricky questions were answered by Valery Semiletov, CEO of Softvoya.

What is scrum, how does it work?

Valery: Scrum is a framework based on empiricism and frugality that allows us to deliver value by solving complex problems. Similar principles and values of agile tactics.

How does setting a product goal make a scrum team more effective?

Valery: If teams are executing a task and given a goal to strive towards, BUT they lack a detailed explanation and supporting evidence, the risk of achieving said goal  grows exponentially. Without a complete vision and understanding of the goal, decisions and assumptions are formulated, unfortunately mistakes may be made, and the project goes through many revisions. We hate this. It creates an expensive experience for our customers. There is a much more effective way.

A clearly formulated goal gives the team a specific target to deliver and strive towards. Project requirements are encouraged, but not required! Not only does this methodology foster extreme focus and influence efficiency, but creativity is encouraged. The teams evaluate the task or end point and leverage their talents and expertise to discover unique solutions. This defined goal allows the team to filter incoming information and data, allowing tasks to be closely evaluated for effectiveness. We reduce the costs of management, because teams are able to work independently and eliminate the need for micromanagement. The result is our customers save money developing digital products and provide better solutions for their customers and users. 

In other words, does the goal allow product teams to work more efficiently?

Valery: Absolutely. The goal should be structured and succinctly expressed in one or two sentences. It allows everyone to understand where we are going. Based on experience, teams are able to organize their work based on priority and value of the feature.  Without this, it’s a series of expensive trial and errors or micromanagement, which diminishes innovative solutions.

What is the impact to development and product teams with the introduction to scrum?

  • The first thing that changes is the meaningfulness of their actions. Purpose gives meaning to work. We talk with potential employees during an interview process and ask the reason for leaving the previous place. A particular reason for candidates’ burnout is the aimlessness of their actions. It turns out that meaningfulness is already a good motivator for work;
  • With the scrum approach, we regularly interact with project stakeholders and better understand their expectations and requirements, thus we can achieve the required results faster. This reduces unnecessary work. Nothing is more demotivating than throwing away your own work or constantly reworking the same code.
  • Scrum answers the question, “How do we achieve the sprint goal?” Thus, the team itself determines the best process to achieve this goal. Leading to the formation of an environment in which people feel comfortable and are passionate about the results.
  • A major factor is shared ownership: when the responsibility for the result is on an entire team. The team holds each other accountable and no one can say: “I did everything.” Either everyone comes to the finish line, or no one. There is mutual responsibility, people have to work together and negotiate with each other to find the best solution.

All these factors give the team motivation: as Daniel Pink wrote in his book “Drive”, for high motivation, an employee should have 3 things: autonomy (a person chooses how to perform a task), skill (the need for study and development to complete a task) and a goal (why it’s necessary).

What are the most common mistakes scrum teams make during implementation? How do you avoid them?

Valery: For scrum to be successful, the team members have to understand the internal structure of the organization.

What prevents successful implementations of scrum?

If we say that Scrum did not work, then the problem is most likely not in Scrum, but in us. It may be a product that we develop or support, because the product itself may initially not allow us to work with Scrum. Scrum is not a magic pill for all the diseases of management. You need to understand the internal structure of the organization in which you work: if not the whole organization works according to the Scrum framework or shares the principles of Agile, then problems may arise when implementing Scrum. You may have a team that works on Scrum, but reports to people within a standard hierarchical structure. The difference in approaches within the same structure will prevent the implementation of Scrum.

The team itself can also interfere: people may not share these values, they may not want transparency, openness, self-organization, they may not want to take responsibility.

If something went wrong with your scrum implementation, what could be the problem?

a) You did not implement scrum, but your own idea of it;

b) The projects that you are going to manage, the approach and style itself remain linear;

c) Lack of scrum specialists, which can spoil all your good intentions.

How do you implement scrum successfully?

Valery:  Scrum is dynamic. There is no single recipe for success. Focus on building a team that believes in the benefits of scrum and bring in specialists. One person can create a toxic environment for an entire team and destroy success. This is why constant feedback from team members and customers is imperative.

Next, determine how to measure the results for success. Let’s assume we have a static assessment of the task: prior to scrum implementation, we performed 10 tasks per week, and after implementation we performed 12 tasks. Is this a success or not? What if we started doing 8 tasks a week, but the clients were more satisfied? Determining what is high-quality and successful is often a subjective assessment of each individual company. This is a question of the organization’s goals, what is important to it: how much it earns, satisfied customers, empowered employees, or a combination of multiple goals. Without setting goals and measuring the before and after, we cannot understand whether we implemented scrum correctly.

The scrum implementation process is constant. Scrum evolves, the company evolves, new people come in, and changes are constantly taking place. Scrum is a sequence of iterations and continual improvement. The implementation of scrum is a sequence of iterations and continuous improvement of what happened the day before. If teams are doing better today than yesterday, you will eventually arrive at the goal that you set for yourself.

What do you focus on when implementing scrum?

Valery: You need to focus on people. If we say that the basis of scrum is self-organization and self-management, and its values ​​are commitment, focus, respect, openness and courage, then we must understand that a successful scrum implementation is when people start believing in the methodology. It’s necessary to work with the entire team: with their obstacles, barriers, fears, and work with the external environment of the organization. The most difficult aspect is conveying to your people what will change for them, how it will benefit them, and what will change for the better.

Is a scrum master a form of psychologist?

Valery: Think of a scrum master as more of a diverse coach. They have to understand the subject area in order to speak the same language with the people and teams they are trying to organize.

Scrum places a person at the core of the development process, and the main task of implementing this framework is to properly organize the team’s work and involve all participants in the process. How does employee engagement affect the end result of product development? Does every employee of the company have the same influence on the development result and have weight within the company that works with scrum?

Valery: Scrum doesn’t mean each individual has the same impact on the development outcome. The level of influence will be limited by the role and competencies, since the employee is addressed mainly to those issues in which he is a professional. This is not an equalization, this is an opportunity to prove yourself. The degree of influence is always determined by competencies and personal qualities.

Dear readers, that’s not the end! Even more interesting features and lifehacks are waiting for you in the second part of the interview.

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